The "Video" Supplement
An introduction, some observations, and a plan for tomorrow.
Supplements are important — who doesn’t need a dash of fortification?
So, in-between One Words, it’s time I start publishing a piece that’s less constructed and filled with observations from living with last month’s word.
With that in mind, for the inaugural supplement, I’ll take a step back and look at why I started One Word in the first place.
One Word, Three Rules
One Word began as an idea with very little form. I spent six months writing my first word, Stone. For two long, surly Canadian seasons I’d wake up, brew my coffee, sit at my desk and tweak a few sentences over and over, then log into work.
But once I finally hit publish, I made a commitment to myself: I would choose a word, explore its meaning in my life, and finish the project by the end of the month.
That creative loop has become essential. When I decide on a word, I invite it into my life. It’s in the car with my wife and daughter as we decide where to go on the weekend. It’s part of my conversations with friends, and ultimately, I believe it guides where I’m going as a creator.
Through my conversations with all of you, I realized there were a few foundational rules that you probably don’t know about — because I never wrote about them.
Here they are:
1. Each word must try something new.
Since it pushes me to take risks, this rule can be very challenging to abide, and it usually means an uncomfortable month.
By trying something new with each word, however, I’ve picked up themes that have stuck around for the next word, such as exploring familial relationships and conducting interviews.
It’s also motivated me to do things I thought were impossible — more on that later.
2. Each word must make me cry.
Before I started writing One Word, I wrote in the morning on a legal pad for two years. The only goal I had during this time was to explore my inner world, not unlike carrying an oil lantern into the dark.
I’d often end these sessions in a puddle of tears. I was exhausted, yes, but somehow my heart and flesh seemed lighter, as if I stepped out of a sauna. Writing One Word is a continuation of this practice.
3. Each word must require the whole month.
As some of you know, I work in content strategy and marketing. One mantra of modern content marketing is that you must publish frequently. Another rule is that you must tweak your topics and titles to match the shifting landscape of user intent.
I chose to disregard both of these rules and instead write about a single word and work on that word until the month was over.
This choice ended up having a profound impact. By allowing myself the time to rewrite and tinker, I created pieces that, if I followed modern content practices, would have never existed.
A Plan for Tomorrow
Writing, shooting, and editing Video was a huge life milestone.
Since I was a child, I wanted to be a filmmaker. When I was sixteen, I even bought an old 16mm camera and shot a roll of film, but I didn’t have the heart to develop it. Later that year, I failed my final assignment, an anti-smoking commercial, and flunked media class.
In college, I chose Film Studies at the University of Toronto. I disliked the critical nature of the program — all my assignments focused on analyzing the hell out of movies — so I switched over to English Literature.
These failures convinced me that video just wasn’t possible for me. But One Word changed my mind. Completing word after word instilled confidence, and when Video knocked, I opened the door.
Now that I’ve made a video, I want to make more. So moving forward, One Word will be a video-forward project. I’ll still post the written version along with a few images, but I want to explore visual storytelling for a little while longer.
Then mid-month, I’ll post a supplement.
Now that the month of Video is over, and I’ve had some time to decompress, I’m more grateful than ever for the written word.
It was a blessing I didn’t fall in love with moving images before I fell in love with turning phrases. Throughout my teens, 20s, and early 30s, I spent time with language. I wrote poems and stories and made a living as a copywriter.
In return, I’ve come to understand that writing is a necessity. It’s a limb that must be massaged and scratched lest it atrophy and disfigure.
But video is different. It’s unregulated indulgence. On shoot days, I wake up giddy. I’m over-eager and under-cooked. The sixteen-year-old in me comes out of hiding, sleepy-eyed and dreamy, thinking up funky angles, dying to experiment with time lapses.
I’m having fun.
More importantly, I’m reminded of what it’s like to start at the beginning of a craft, and this time, I’m at a place in my life where I can enjoy it.
Still, video asks for tremendous devotion. And I’ll be honest with you — I don’t know what its value is to me in three months or three years. But I guess we’ll see?
Read, Watched, Ate, Played, Heard, Noted
Who doesn’t love a listicle? Here’s what I enjoyed during the month of Video.
With an 18 month old daughter in the house, I don’t have much time to read novels, so in the morning before writing, I read poetry. This month, it was Eliot’s classic, time-obsessed stanzas. Burnt Norton is my favourite, followed closely by The Dry Salvages.
I love this show, and Season 3 is special. It includes four or five short films, unrelated to the main characters, and they’re all incredible. For example, an alternate present-day Atlanta where Americans with slave ancestry can sue Americans with slave-owning ancestry, making reparations a real thing.
My wife and I recently discovered the best gluten-free frozen pizza. Ever.
I gave in and played a few hours during the open beta weekend in March. I had a blast exploding corpses and summoning skeletons and nabbing loot with more confusing statistics than StatsCan.
If you love ambient music, Amos Roddy’s soundtrack to a lesser-known indie game is a must. It feels like slipping into a smooth, elegant cockpit with pinpricks of spacetime reflecting off the cold steel fuselage. It’s incredible.
I’ve been a little (okay, a lot) addicted to Substack’s new Notes feature. It’s true usefulness is still a mystery, but until we all figure it out, I’ve been thinking up potential strategies any of us can leverage to grow a subscriber base. Here’s an example:
I’ve also used Notes to discover amazing writers. Here are three:
Okay, that’s it for now.
I love this project, and I’m so glad to have you on this journey with me.